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Changes coming for Pennsylvania ignition interlock laws

Under current Pennsylvania DUI laws if a person is convicted of a first offense DUI they are not mandated to install an ignition interlock in their vehicle. This is the case no matter what an individuals blood alcohol level is. An ignition interlock however is required to be installed in a vehicle for all repeat DUI offenders. The Pennsylvania ignition interlock law was first enacted to reduce repeat driving under the influences offenses and to improve highway safety. It appears this all could change thanks to Senate Bill 290.

An ignition interlock device is basically a breathalyzer that is hooked up to an individuals vehicle. A driver would be required to blow into a mouthpiece attached to this device before their car will start. The purpose of this device is to keep an intoxicated driver from being able to start their car. In addition to starting the vehicle, the device will also prompt the driver to blow into the device periodically when prompted to do so.

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives this past Monday voted 193-2 to require the use of an ignition interlock device for most drivers convicted of a first offense DUI. Just yesterday the bill was unanimously passed by the Senate and now it is expected Governor Tom Wolf will sign into law however the new provisions would not take effect for close to 15 months. Under this bill, an individual with a first time DUI conviction with a blood alcohol level of .10 % and greater would be able to avoid the one year license suspension (currently the law) by installing an ignition interlock device in their vehicle for one year. As it stands right now an individual can apply for an occupational limited license but they have to first serve 60 days of their suspension. This new law would allow a person to drive for employment, school, doctors office or even just to do daily errands. However if this bill is eventually signed into law it would not extend to commercial drivers, persons who are involved in a DUI related accidents where someone dies or people accepted into the diversionary program ARD. Many states around the country already have similar laws on the books for first time DUI offenders.

The problem I see with this bill is that it targets the wrong individuals. Installing this devise for first time offenders may stop an individual from driving in the short term but what effect does this device have an that same person after the device is removed. It seems that a better solution would be to mandate the ignition interlock for a longer period of time on repeat offenders or even to mandate the device on individuals withe highest blood alcohol levels no matter what number offense it is. For example, if an individual is convicted of a second offense DUI it seems to make much more sense to mandate that this particular individual install an interlock devise in their vehicle for 5 years. Furthermore, it should be pointed out that ignition interlocks will not be able to detect if a person has drugs in their system while operating a motor vehicle.

Under Senate bill 290, if a person knows they will not lose their license if caught driving under the influence, many more may be willing now to take that risk. A license suspension to many is more devastating then serving a weekend in jail which I hear from clients all the time. This bill in essence is now taking away the fear that keeps many people from drinking and driving in the first place, loss of license. In fact since it appears the new law won’t apply to someone accepted into ARD, some individuals may chose to forgo ARD altogether and just plead guilty to avoid a suspension.

Hiring the right attorney can make all the difference in the world. If you find yourself arrested for a DUI, make sure you have a capable attorney on your side. DUI attorney Zachary B. Cooper will be aggressive and will fight to make sure that your rights are protected so that you and your family can move on with your lives. Call (215) 542-0800 for a free consultation.